If you missed Part One you can find it here Lessons from Death – Part One
The sudden request from my father to move in with us caught me off guard. He was to be released from the rehabilitation center two days after he asked to live with me. My sister packed some of his things. She put together his finances so that I could take those with me. He had only been to Upstate NY once before. He always thought it was too far to drive. Somehow, it was much closer for me to drive to Maryland with my car packed with luggage, wife, and kids. In his mind, I’m sure I did live closer to him than he did to me.
He enjoyed the trip. I believe he saw it as a new adventure. He seemed more energetic and excited as we drew near to our destination. After an eight-hour ride, we arrived at my home, a home my father had never seen before. He seemed pleased with his new surroundings. The very next day he was planning to turn my back yard into a garden. I had to explain to him that the park that I live in had certain restrictions concerning gardens. I told him that I would think of something.
My father loved western shows and movies. Luckily, our cable company had a channel dedicated to such a genre. The livingroom TV was set to that station for him. He never did get the hang of the remote. I went to the library and signed out large print books for him to read. I spent most of my time that week preparing our livingroom to be a proper place for my father to stay. He had much more energy than I had expected. His spirits were greatly lifted. He begged to help with the cooking. I was very pleased to witness what I thought was a recovery. I assembled a team of doctors for his care.
A newsletter was designed and published so that it could be sent to his friends (they weren’t all dead afterall) and family so everyone could be informed as to his progress. A new edition of the newsletter went out every two or three weeks. I purchased an amplified phone so that loved ones could call. He was very hard of hearing and did not have much luck with those “fangled” hearing aids.
He did surprisingly well until Spring, his favorite time of year. That is when the planting begins. He had supported himself with a cane, but the cane no longer proved sufficient. We borrowed a wheelchair for him. He was so disappointed. He wanted to be in the garden, any garden. My neighbor told me about square foot gardening as an alternative. It was a great idea. Then God improved on the idea – He inspired me to think garden tables! Take the square foot garden idea and elevate it to a level that would accept a wheelchair. My father was so happy. He brightened up again. He was just like a child with a brand new toy.
He didn’t see much of the harvest from those tables. He grew ever tired and more ill shortly after working on the garden tables. I realize now that his excitement and energy was much like a bulb that burns ever brighter before going dim. His illness finally caught up with him. Soon he would have his last ride in an ambulance.
Doing all this for my Dad was a wonderful task and a loving struggle. The most profound lesson I learned from this is that you don’t help people die, you help them live until they just can’t live any more.
The next contribution will explore his last days and the incredible preciousness of life and letting go. Until next time, take care, stay well and be safe.
Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Four